Looking for the best and worst days of the week to visit each park at Walt Disney World? This strategy guide covers Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, offering info about when the wait times are lowest and highest, plus commentary about weekdays v. weekends, special events, and more. (Updated March 1, 2023.)
When it comes to choosing the best and worst times to visit Walt Disney World, there’s a lot to consider. If you’re singularly focused on avoiding long lines, we recommend consulting our 2023 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar to choose travel dates. As with this post, we’ve just updated that with the latest wait time data from the first two months of 2023.
If you’re more concerned with the quality of the overall experience, we also have something more holistic: our 2023 Best and Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World. That ranks every month of the year, and recommends best weeks of the year to visit (but hasn’t been updated as recently). Once you narrow down a range of dates, it’s time to start thinking about which days of the week to do each park. That’s where this post and its 2023 updates come into play…
For much of the last three years, conventional day of the week advice for Walt Disney World was irrelevant or flat out wrong. Capacity constraints and park reservations were big factors. Even though the Park Pass system is no longer needed to limit attendance, it’s still being used to redistribute crowds and normalize numbers among the parks. All of this has upended our normal recommendations.
Thankfully, attendance and crowd dynamics have started to normalize. Even with elevated attendance and wait times that have pushed crowd levels to 9/10 and 10/10 on some dates, the Disney Park Pass reservation calendar is mostly wide open for 2023. We expect that to change for Spring Break 2023, but even that shouldn’t be as bad as the last two years. Consequently, typical weekly attendance and crowds patterns among the parks have also started to normalize.
Accordingly, here’s our new advice for best days of the week at Walt Disney World in 2023, same as the old advice.
We recommend doing Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a weekend. This has been the dynamic with DHS for the last few years, and the underlying reasons have changed during that time, but the salient point remains unchanged: the best days to do DHS are Saturdays or Sundays.
Of those two weekend days, Sunday is the better option. Breaking it down even further, Sunday nights are the absolute best time to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you’re arriving late (after 4 pm), you can accomplish a surprising amount in that half-day at DHS. We’ve tested that out in the last few months, and it remains true even now that Fantasmic is back.
Frankly, it’s difficult to explain the ‘why’ of that at this point. For whatever reason, it continues to be our experience that weekends are slightly less busy in practice at DHS, and average daily wait times are lower.
One possibility is that locals still do Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Saturday and Sunday, but do so disproprotionately early in the day. This causes a big spike in wait times early on, resulting in both those guests and others bouncing early…and shorter wait times in the afternoon and evening. It’s also possible that locals are less inclined to do rides, especially ones with higher wait times. That’s our theory, and there’s really no other good way to explain the discrepancy.
Accordingly, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is our recommendation for Saturdays or Sundays. However, we’d only recommend doing DHS if you can stay until night time to take advantage of the lower average waits later in the day. If you’re going to arrive late and leave early, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is actually a bad option on both Saturday and Sunday. Likewise, it’s also a bad option on Mondays and Tuesdays.
If you don’t do DHS over a weekend (with the important asterisk that it’s important to arrive early and/or leave late), consider going on Wednesday or Thursday. If neither of those days work, Friday is usually a safe bet. The reasons that those days are superior will become obvious when we get to Magic Kingdom…
Epcot is the worst pick on weekends because it’s the biggest “local’s park” at Walt Disney World, and Epcot is more popular with Floridians than tourists. Although the gap has closed a little with the debuts of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, it’s still true.
This is an example of where analyzing wait time data would get you into trouble, as you would (incorrectly) conclude that it doesn’t really matter which day you do Epcot. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and there’s arguably no park where choosing the right day of the week is more important from a qualitative perspective, but not a quantitative one.
Wait times don’t tell the full story–or even the main one–when it comes to Epcot on weekends. Since locals are less likely to do rides, they add to ‘feels like’ crowds and congestion without making attraction wait times noticeably worse. This is still a negative, as lines for food booths are longer and World Showcase is generally less pleasant on the weekends.
You’re also more likely to encounter groups Drinking Around the World on Saturday and Sunday. For those of you who want to relive your glory days by attending an open air frat party, this might sound appealing. However, those days are long behind us, and we suspect many families don’t want their kids in that environment.
We’re not kidding. Weekends are prime time for college students with disposable incomes to descend upon Epcot’s festivals to get sloshed. (It’s noticeably worse when UCF doesn’t have a home football game.) Likewise, locals turn out to drink, sometimes to excess. Now, we are far from teetotalers, but this sometimes can be a tad too much for a family-friendly theme park. Even if it doesn’t cross the line (and it very well may not for you), World Showcase is significantly more crowded and congested on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Again, this is is largely a qualitative assessment, and not a quantitative one. Wait times are not significantly worse at Epcot on weekends. Since most of the aforementioned audience is visiting to drink, they have minimal impact on the wait times for rides. (Lines for food booths are a totally different story!)
As such, you might be able to “beat” the weekend crowds at Epcot simply by arriving early, doing World Showcase first, and then doubling-back into Future World (or whatever they’re calling those “neighborhoods” now) in the early afternoon. That’s a savvy strategy, and one we recommend in our Epcot 1-Day Itinerary.
With that said, our actual advice is visiting Epcot on a weekday. Mondays through Wednesdays are all equally good. We’ve noticed a slight uptick in crowds on Thursdays, and a more significant one on Fridays. Still, not nearly as bad as Saturday or Sunday.
Even though the impact on wait times isn’t terrible, Epcot is the one park we try to avoid on Saturday and Sunday if at all possible. I’d much rather deal with the crowds and longer waits on Saturday in Magic Kingdom than those in Epcot. To each their own, but it’s just not our scene.
As a general matter, Animal Kingdom is the park that requires the least strategy and is the easiest place to beat the crowds in all of Walt Disney World. It doesn’t require Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes, and is pretty easy to knock out everything–and then some–if you stay for a full day.
Objectively, the best days to visit Animal Kingdom are weekdays. Across the board, average daily wait times are lower Monday through Friday than they are Saturday or Sunday. However, that comes with a pretty huge asterisk or caveat.
Weekend wait times are only “worse” at Animal Kingdom due to the middle of the day. If you’re staying on-site and taking advantage of Early Entry (or even going in the first couple hours the park is open), it’s pretty easy to beat the crowds.
Moreover, there’s a pretty steep fall off in wait times during the last couple hours Animal Kingdom is open. This one does vary by season (during the holidays, it’s less likely to be true) but is accurate to some degree throughout the entire year.
That makes Animal Kingdom trickier than other parks at Walt Disney World in terms of our recommendation. Statistically, it’s a “bad” park to do on Saturday or Sunday. Personally, we don’t hesitate to visit it on either of those days because it is so easy to outsmart the crowds–just arrive early and/or stay late, and do shows or animal exhibits midday when crowds peak.
If you’re able to follow that advice, Animal Kingdom is a solid Saturday or Sunday choice. That early opening time coupled with a late closing time—and a limited slate of attractions—makes Animal Kingdom easy to knock out.
Even on crowded days, the strategy for Animal Kingdom is relatively simple, as covered in our 1-Day Animal Kingdom Itinerary. Just be sure not to fight the midday crowds or try to swim upstream and you should be fine! (Honestly, the best practice is to choose your days for Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Epcot first. Whatever is left over can be “assigned” to Animal Kingdom. Don’t worry too much about this park.)
Historically, the worst days of the week at Magic Kingdom are Saturday, Monday and Tuesday.
There are a couple of reasons for Saturday being worse. The first is locals, who disproportionately visit on Saturday when they have time off from work or school. This is pretty easy and straightforward, and also explains why Magic Kingdom has tended to have its longest hours of the week on Saturdays. Those longer hours, in turn, induce more demand and result in more tourists also heading to Magic Kingdom all-day on Saturday, or Park Hopping there in the evening.
The other explanation is more seasonal. As discussed in the “Party Season” section, the dynamic is exacerbated from August through December, when there are hard ticket events several nights per week.
On each of these evenings, Magic Kingdom closes earlier than it would on a normal night by 4-5 hours. Many guests avoid Magic Kingdom on days with shorter hours, which means lighter crowds before the party. We aren’t going to rehash the explanation here–suffice to say, Magic Kingdom is always worse on Saturdays, but especially during party season.
Outside of party season, Magic Kingdom is a great pick Wednesday through Thursday. The best day of the week in Magic Kingdom from an objective perspective is Wednesday. This is true even following the debut of Extended Evening Hours in Magic Kingdom, which have not noticeably moved the needle on daytime crowds thus far.
This is because locals tend to visit on weekends, with Saturday being more likely than Fridays or Sundays (but all three days seeing elevated attendance among Floridians). Then there are Southerners who take long weekend trips, impacting all three days (but again, Saturday disproportionately).
Finally, tourists most frequently start their trips on the weekend, and Monday is a common first day in the parks for them. In disproportionate numbers, out-of-state vacation-goers do the most popular or their favorite park first, and that’s usually Magic Kingdom.
Due to its rising popularity with Star Wars and Toy Story fans, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is increasingly becoming a #1 or #2 choice for many guests, which means Magic Kingdom has fallen to #2 for some visitors. As a result, it can still see elevated crowds on Tuesdays, when those tourists are doing their #2 park. (For the exact same reason, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is also seeing higher crowds on Tuesdays as it’s become a #2 park for many people.)
This leaves Wednesday and Thursday as the least busy days of the week at Magic Kingdom. As of the first two months of 2023, Sunday has also emerged as a surprisingly uncrowded day at Magic Kingdom. We’re hesitant to recommend visiting on Sunday because historical wait time data suggests this will change, but it has certainly been a good option thus far this year.
Magic Kingdom can be more challenging when it’s busy, but it’s still possible to have a satisfying and productive day in the park. We’d recommend buying Genie+ in Magic Kingdom, or at least using Early Entry. Follow our 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary if you want to beat the crowds without either.
Party Season at Magic Kingdom
Party season in Magic Kingdom encompasses early August through late December–a pretty big chunk of the calendar–when the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) special events are held. On days when the party is held, Magic Kingdom opens at 8 am and closes to regular ticket holders at 6 pm.
On non-party days, Magic Kingdom opens at 9 am and closes at 11 pm. In other words, the park stays open 5 hours later to regular guests when MNSSHP and MVMCP are not held.
Most visitors behave accordingly, making the intuitive choice and visiting Magic Kingdom when they can spend 4-5 extra hours in the park. That seems like the “obvious” decision, as more time in the park–not to mention actually being able to see the fireworks and Magic Kingdom at night–is the smarter strategy.
Unfortunately, that is not true. Everyone making the intuitive decision throws a monkey wrench into attendance and crowd dynamics during the party season. The consequence of that guest behavior should likewise be obvious: Magic Kingdom is significantly less busy during the day time hours on dates when parties are held in the evening, and much more busy on non-party days.
To put this into context, Magic Kingdom regularly has 9/10 or 10/10 crowd levels on non-party days, with Saturdays being the worst.
By contrast, Magic Kingdom typically has 1/10 to 4/10 crowd levels on party days. That amounts to an average wait time differential of about 20 to 30 minutes per ride, which adds up over the course of the day to the point that you can accomplish more in the party-shortened days when Magic Kingdom closes at 6 pm.
As a result, we strongly recommend doing Magic Kingdom during the days shortened by the Halloween or Christmas, and then Park Hopping to another park before 4 pm. Guests of the events can start entering Magic Kingdom at 4 pm, and this ‘mix-in’ time with regular day guests is when the park goes from blissfully uncrowded to busier. (We usually aim to leave by 3 pm.)
Even though non-party days offer significantly longer hours, you’ll still come out ahead by avoiding Saturdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and other non-party days. Despite far few hours on a party day, you will almost always come out ahead thanks to the time saved waiting in lines.
There’s another upside to visiting Magic Kingdom during the day when a party is held at night: earlier opening times. This is a huge advantage, as covered in Photo Report & Strategy: Magic Kingdom Early Entry at 7:30 am. Suffice to say, there’s a big difference in crowds for Early Entry on a day when Magic Kingdom opens to the public at 8 am v. 9 am.
The big downside to attending Magic Kingdom on a party day is having to leave by 6 pm. This means missing the fireworks and usually evening in the park. The upside is that you can see fireworks from outside the park–or you can Park Hop back to Magic Kingdom on a non-party night. Just brace yourself for significantly higher crowds than what you experienced on the party day, as many people will have the same idea!
There’s also a flip side to all of this, which is that the other 3 parks are less crowded on non-party days and more crowded on party days. If you think about it, this makes sense–Magic Kingdom crowds don’t exist in a vacuum. If less or more people are in one park, the opposite is true in the others.
As a result, Saturday becomes a great day to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom during party season. That’s not the case for EPCOT, since it’s the ‘party park’ (different kind of party in this context), and many Floridians and local college students visit on the weekends to drink around World Showcase.
All three other parks become good options on Mondays and Wednesdays. The converse is also true: EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom are worse options on days when the parties are held in Magic Kingdom. However, none of this is as pronounced as it is with the roller coaster crowds in Magic Kingdom. With 3 other parks to absorb the displaced guests, the impact is lower on each of them than on Magic Kingdom itself.
Apologies for this lengthy explanation, but this is the most important consideration in choosing your day to visit each park. More than anything else, the ‘party season’ crowd dynamic is the most consistent and predictable–this same dynamic has played out with MNSSHP and MVMCP for years, and will again in 2023.
It’s also where most guests ‘goof up’ and choose the intuitive-but-incorrect approach. While it doesn’t encompass the entire calendar, it does apply to 5 months of the year–if you’re visiting during this stretch, we’d highly recommend buying Park Hopper tickets and following this advice!
Best & Worst Days at WDW in 2023 Recap
We’ve covered a lot of ground and it can be overwhelming, so let’s try to break down the best and worst days in 2023 to visit each park at Walt Disney World in a more concise manner.
Visit on These Days:
- Wednesday and Thursday do Magic Kingdom
- Wednesday and Thursday do Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Sunday and (to a lesser extent) Saturday do Disney’s Hollywood Studios if arriving early or staying late
- Monday through Thursday do EPCOT
- Any weekday do Animal Kingdom
- Saturday and Sunday do Animal Kingdom if arriving early or staying late
- Party Days do Magic Kingdom if able to Park Hop elsewhere
Avoid These Days:
- Saturday, Monday and Tuesday don’t do Magic Kingdom
- Monday and Tuesday don’t do Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Saturdays and Sundays don’t do EPCOT
- Saturdays and Sundays don’t do Animal Kingdom if arriving late and leaving early
With it laid out like this, you should see that some days are consistently the best and worst for multiple parks. This means that during the course of an average vacation, you might have no choice but to do certain parks on days that are not objectively as good. Don’t worry about that, as explained in the final section…
How Much Does Day of the Week Matter?
Average wait times can vary by 3 to 10 minutes on the best versus worst days of the week at each park. That may not seem like much, but a 10 minute difference is actually huge. Over the course of the day, that can means spending an hour (or more) less time waiting in line if you choose correctly.
However, it’s not usually a 10 minute difference–that’s an extreme example. You also probably wouldn’t choose the worst days if picking at random, nor would you accidentally go at only the time of day when crowds are heaviest and the gap is highest. So in practice, you can probably expect to save only a few minutes per ride by making good choices with the day of the week you visit each park. That’s not a ton of time, but it does add up over the course of a trip.
With that said, there’s typically much more of a difference in crowds between weeks rather than within them. Accordingly, choosing a good time to visit Walt Disney World is significantly more important than how you allocate your days within the week.
Even more important is arriving early and/or staying late, which is the simplest way to beat crowds at Walt Disney World. Late morning to mid-afternoon is the busiest time of day at every single park, and when wait times are the worst.
Just as crucial is having savvy strategy. Picking a great day or week to visit can make touring the parks significantly easier, but so too can having a good itinerary that zigs when others zag.
Then there’s the option of buying your way out of crowds with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which is another good fail safe option. (See our Walt Disney World Itineraries page for options with Genie+ and without it.)
Choosing the best days of the week–and avoiding the worst ones–at each Walt Disney World theme park comes after all of those things. To be sure, it’s a good practice and worth keeping in mind that Magic Kingdom is best on Wednesdays and worst on Saturdays, or that Epcot should be avoided on weekends.
It’s also useful for those boxed into less than ideal travel dates due to school or work schedules. Same goes for anyone who realistically won’t have the option to arrive early or stay late (there’s a reason those times are most advantageous–because it’s simply not feasible for many families with small children). Ditto anyone who doesn’t want to pay extra for Genie+ on principle, or because it’s not in their vacation budget. For anyone this describes, carefully choosing days of the week for each park can relieve some pressure and result in shorter wait times.
With that said, we wouldn’t upend our previously-planned schedules to account for this. In the past, we’ve offered day of week recommendations and have received frantic questions from readers who already have their Advance Dining Reservations set, and have made meticulous plans for each park, wondering if they should throw it all away and start from scratch.
The answer, without exception, is a resounding “no.” Day of the week matters, but not that much. Moreover, day of the weeke recommendations are pretty easy to disrupt. All it really takes is inclimate weather (relatively commonplace in Florida) or inordinate attraction downtime. Either of those things can be enough to turn a “bad” day into a “good” one in terms of wait times, or vice-versa.
Ultimately, simply by virtue of researching and reading a post about the best and worst days of the week to visit every park at Walt Disney World, you’re better equipped to avoid crowds than 95% of guests–but because you’re almost certainly not reading just this strategy. While the advice here is theoretically useful, it’s pretty far from make or break.
You’re much better off using the other resources on this blog to choose good months or weeks to visit. If that’s not an option (or even if it is), remember to arrive early or stay late. Failing that, use our itineraries to prioritize attractions in the best order. Don’t want to do that for some odd reason, spend the money on Genie+ and buy your way out of lines. If you’d rather not spend money and go with the flow during a midday-only visit…I guess this is the best advice for you!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Which days are your favorites for each of the parks? Think it’s good advice to avoid Epcot on weekends, even if it’s not supported by wait times? What about Saturdays v. Wednesdays at Magic Kingdom? Any other best or worst days at each of the Walt Disney World theme parks? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!